|Adoration of the Magi – Fra Angelico (ca. 1455)|
May Christ Bless This House!
For most of the world , today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the 12th Day of Christmas, or “little Christmas”. For dioceses of the United States we celebrate the Solemnity this Sunday. The three magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, followed the star to Bethlehem to adore the new born King. They brought gifts of gold because the Child was a King, frankincense because the Child was God, and myrrh because the Child was destined to be a sacrifice. Since before the middle ages, Catholics would bless their houses by inscribing with blessed chalk the initials of the three kings above their doorways.
This tradition symbolizes the family’s commitment to welcome Christ into their homes throughout the year. We don’t have to look back very far (40 years ago but some ethnic parishes continue this today) when priests would wander through the parish neighborhoods-holy water and chalk in hand-blessing homes and marking the portals. In our home we continue this tradition and celebrate the Epiphany with food, gifts, chalk and a little holy water. Santa gifts get top billing on Christmas day but on the Epiphany we each exchange a small present with one another. The highlight of our celebration is the house blessing. The children process holding candles to each of their rooms and take turns sprinkling them with holy water. Fights usually ensue so we have to plan in advance who gets to do what (the boys share a room). Dad inscribes the initials and each child can mark the crosses. Mom (the reader) stands by with holy water/fire extinguisher. We do all the doorways of the house but some customs only do the main entrance. “More is better” is my motto. Though we don’t bake a 3 kings cake (even Dora the Explorer has an episode on this) we have a festive meal.
It is traditions like these which build our Roman Catholic Identity. When we know who we are we can more effectively share the gift with others.
Here is one form of an Epiphany House Blessing:
V. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
V. Peace be to this house and: to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.
A. Blessed be God forever.
V. A reading from the holy gospel according to St. John
A. Glory to You, o Lord.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be….. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3.14)
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home is sprinkled with holy water. The year and initials of the Magi are inscribed above the doors with the blessed chalk (Casper, Melchior and Balthasar with the first two numerals of the year preceding the C and the last two numerals of the year placed after the B).
As you inscribe the initials say: “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “May Christ bless this house”.)
V. Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Blessing the Chalk
If you cannot obtain blessed chalk, it is permissible for the head of the household to bless chalk to be used. Here is a simple formula:
V. Our help is the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
Let us pray.
Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk
to render it helpful to your people.
Grant that they who use it in faith
and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes
the names of your saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,
may through their merits and intercession
enjoy health of body and protection of soul.
Through Christ our Lord.
And the chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.
|‘Massacre of the Innocents’, Matteo di Giovanni, 1482, Sant’Agostino, Siena, Italy|
|Reading||A sermon of St Quodvultdeus|
|Even before they learn to speak, they proclaim Christ|
On Christmas Eve I took the family to Blessed Sacrament in Providence, RI. As you can see the church is magnificent:
|Agnolo Bronzino c.1535|
At the beginning of Advent my pastor brought up a question in his homily that has haunted me and was the focus of my reflection this season: “Do we need a Savior?” Those of us interested in apologetics or evangelizing often get mired in the important details and often hair-splitting distinctions and reactions to current affairs, yet fail to present the big picture. Faithful and inactive Catholics alike rarely reflect on the most basic and fundamental presuppositions of our Christian faith–and apologists err in presuming these presuppositions are equally understood and held by both. I believe this is the key to the New Evangelization and my intention this coming New Year is to focus on these fundamental questions. I hope readers will find here a valuable resource to especially share with those interested in seeking the Truth. God Bless and Merry Christmas. I’ll let Pope Benedict take it from here:
But does a “Saviour” still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium ? Is a “Saviour” still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.1
Is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Saviour? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need him. They live as though he did not exist and, worse still, as though he were an “obstacle” to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers — we are sure of it — some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness.
So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?
How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today “the true light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9) came into the world. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more “unto his own”, and to those who receive him he gives “the power to become children of God”; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God’s glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today “our Saviour is born to the world”, for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his “heart”, that man always needs to be “saved”. And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?
[T]he One [the Church] proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfillment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17). 2
God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place – he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.3
1. Urbi et Orbe 2006
2. L’Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English 3 January 2007, page 18
3. Thought for the Day Christmas Message to UK 12-24-2010
Today Christ is born, Alleluia! Merry Christmas to all from Roman Catholic Identity!
Today in him a new light has dawned upon the world:
God has become one with man,
and man has become one again with God.
Your eternal Word has taken upon himself our human weakness,
giving our mortal nature immortal value.
So marvelous is this oneness between God and man
that in Christ man restores to man the gift of everlasting life.
Christmas Preface III
And from the Catechism, a brief reflection on why the Incarnation is significant to us:
I. WHY DID THE WORD BECOME FLESH?
456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who “loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins”: “the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world”, and “he was revealed to take away sins”: (I Jn 4:10; 4:14; 3:5)
Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech 15: PG 45, 48B)
458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” (I Jn 4:9) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)
459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6) On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7; cf. Deut 6:4-5) Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example. (Cf. Mk 8:34)
460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: (2 Pt 1:4) “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939) “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4)